Profile in Sustainability – Matt Ellis

Matt Ellis_1MB.jpegMatt Ellis | Measurabl | Class of 2003 | B.A. Economics, Religion

How did you first become interested in sustainability?

I was working in the commercial real estate business at CBRE and the concept of “green building” started coming up routinely. This is in 2008, the start of the recession. I was curious: what made a green building? What was the value to the tenant and landlord? As you can imagine, business was relatively slow so I started looking into “green” during my spare time and found there wasn’t much guidance or literature, particularly in plain English and accessible for brokers like myself. So I started taking what was available and condensing that into a newsletter about “green leasing,” which I shared regularly around the office. That caught on and CBRE encouraged me to learn more about sustainability and then share those lessons with the broader company. The more I learned, the more convinced I became that sustainability was transformative to the way we did business as a real estate services company and the built environment: buildings, infrastructure, cities, and homes. That original interest, and my education in sustainability from there, compelled me to start Measurabl and put effort into sustainability full-time.

Could you talk about what you do at Measurabl and how you help other companies to become more sustainable?

You “can’t manage what you don’t measure,” so Measurabl made it simple to measure what matters – the environmental impact of your organization – using software. Whether you are a commercial building owner, a corporation, a city, or a university, you can easily and cost-effectively collect the data on your environmental performance like utilities and projects, as well as understand how you’re doing relative to peers, which means you are empowered to take action and improve performance.

You noticed that companies had difficulty collecting sustainability data, and you took the initiative and started Measurabl to address this issue. What are some things you learned from this experience of starting your own company?

It’s incredibly rewarding and equally challenging; there were many lessons learned. The main ones are: (1) Build what you believe in foremost, but be willing to hear and apply criticism dispassionately. (2) Have fun. If you aren’t having fun (most of the time) then something is wrong in the organization – your people, product, investors… Find that and fix it, or get out of the business. (3) People are everything and it’s more than just your employees that matter: build and maintain good relationships with your clients, investors, and partners. They will help you more than you realize.

Is there any advice you would like to share with students who are interested in pursuing a career in sustainability or trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle?

#1 thing to know is that sustainability is a real and growing industry; you can build a career in sustainability. #2 is to know that “career” can take many forms beyond the growing ranks of “Director of Sustainability” who occupy the mid or senior executive level at many large organizations. The trick is to recognize the type of role you want by perfecting the skill set you already have. So if you’re an engineer, look at environmental engineering. If you’re in finance, look at green bonds or impact investing. If you’re already employed and a sustainability role doesn’t exist at your company, create it by writing the job definition and listing competitors with that role, then go to your leadership to ask for their sponsorship.

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